Wasim H. Raja, MD

Why Asthma Can Be Worse in Winter and Steps to Manage Attacks

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California winters are pretty mild compared to the rest of the country, but they can still exacerbate your asthma symptoms. Here’s why your asthma seems worse and what you can do about it.

If your asthma symptoms seem worse in the winter, you’re not imagining it. Even in sunny Southern California, we see an uptick in asthma attacks during the cooler months.

Dr. Wasim Raja and our team at Orange County Healthcare Center in Fountain Valley, California, help Southern Californians manage their asthma symptoms all year. Here, Dr. Raja explains why you may be suffering more this winter and what you can do about it.

Why asthma feels worse in the winter

Asthma narrows your airways, making it difficult to breathe. Attacks can occur any time of year, causing tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing, but winters seem to exacerbate these symptoms — why?

Cold, dry air

California stays relatively comfortable even in the winter, but the temp drops low enough to make a difference in your airways. When it gets colder outside, the layer of fluid that normally protects your airways evaporates, irritating and inflaming them. 

Although staying indoors seems like the logical solution, forced-air heating sucks all the moisture out of the room and creates a dry environment that aggravates your asthma.

Cold season

Winter is the season for colds and other respiratory illnesses that thicken the mucus in your airways and trigger asthma symptoms.


Exercise can bring on an asthma attack any time of year, but the colder temperatures restrict your airways in the winter, making it harder to breathe, so you may experience more coughing and wheezing than usual.

How to manage winter asthma attacks

Dr. Raja is your asthma partner — he creates a customized treatment plan involving medication and lifestyle modifications that address your unique symptoms, and he monitors you throughout your life, making adjustments as necessary. 

Meanwhile, you can reduce the intensity and frequency of your asthma attacks this winter by following these pro tips:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Dress warmly
  • Stay hydrated
  • Run a humidifier in your house
  • Breathe through your nose to warm the air before it hits your lungs
  • Avoid fireplace smoke and other triggers
  • Get the flu vaccine

Also, keep your inhaler on you at all times and take your medication as directed. Talk with Dr. Raja about an asthma attack plan so you know what to do if your symptoms spiral out of control. The signs of an acute attack that warrant immediate medical attention include:

  • Gasping for air
  • Extreme chest tightness
  • Symptoms that don’t get better after using your inhaler
  • Blue or pale lips or fingernails
  • Difficulty walking due to shortness of breath

If your asthma symptoms are worse this time of year, contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raja and get through winter with fewer attacks.